Bonaire's Southern Wetlands Management Plan
The southern wetlands of Bonaire represent a unique environment for the island. Consisting of a wide variety of habitat types including caves, karsts, dry tropical forests, coastal areas, salt pans and mangroves. The Ramsar site Pekelmeer lies completely in this area, as well as a small portion of the buffer zone of the Ramsar site Lac Bay.
Culturally, a number of Bonaire’s historic monuments and tributes to its past can be found as you drive around the perimeter, from ruins of old salt pans to the remains of slave huts and gravestones. Maintaining and respecting these sober reminders of Bonaire’s history is vital to ensuring the sacrifices of the enslaved populations are not forgotten. It would be impossible to separate the historic and cultural identity of Bonaire from this area.
Economically the southern wetlands represent commercial opportunities for salt extraction by Cargill Salt Works as well as a significant driver of tourism, whether it is history enthusiasts, cyclists, kiteboarders, recreational fishers, scuba divers or bird watchers.
The cultural and economic value of this area is only surpassed by its environmental value. The southern wetlands are recognized internationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA), as a site of regional importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, as an area important for sea turtle nesting and as a Ramsar site. The Ramsar site Pekelmeer, which encompasses most of the southern portion of the wetlands, is critical to a number of threatened, endangered or keystone species. Pekelmeer offers a much-needed rest stop for a number of migratory bird species while also serving as an important breeding ground for the Caribbean Flamingo and five different tern species. Furthermore, the southern wetlands constitute most of the natural habitat of the rare and endemic Bonaire Sabal Palm.
This management plan offers a description of the southern wetlands (chapter 1), a legal and legislative overview (chapter 2), a description of resources and utilities (chapter 3), an explanation of the spatial development plan (chapter 4), an overview of conservation target habitats (chapter 5), an analysis of threats and issues (chapter 6), an outline of management actions and strategies (chapter 7), and provides recommendations for the management plan evaluation and review (chapter 8). Conserving this unique wetland will be a major challenge. A critical first step is to designate Pekelmeer as a protected area under island and national legislation, and appoint a management authority.